People think all advertisers are “Mad Men,” sipping martinis in our corner offices overlooking Madison Avenue. But we know better. We are the ADvocates, a group of emerging advertising talent brought together by the 4A’s to give a voice to the younger generation in the industry.
We know that in today’s world, ads can do more than sell a product. We can provide clean drinking water to a village in Peru and convince Colombian guerillas to leave the jungle and return to family. We advertisers have the power to harness our creativity and use it to change the world.
Now, before you write us off as entitled millennials, hear us out. We don’t think we deserve to be CEOs tomorrow. It’s not that we’re entitled; we’re empowered and believe we can make a difference. When the 4A’s formed our Rising Stars group over a year ago, we sat through a series of brainstorms and came to the conclusion that most of us got into this business to be creative, solve problems, and develop game-changing ideas.
With this in mind, we changed our name from Rising Stars to ADvocates (because nothing screams “entitled millennials” like calling ourselves Rising Stars) and met every Thursday night at various agencies. The ground rules were simple: remove your agency hat at the door (we don’t care where you work) and come with an open mind and collaborative spirit.
We decided to focus on world hunger, a cause bigger than advertising; our solution was to host a think-tank called ReSolve. The support we received from the industry before our event took place was astounding: signed pledges from 23 agency CEOs who enthusiastically promised to send their top talent, planning help from the 4A’s, and a high caliber of applications from our peers that truly amazed us.
After months of planning, the dream became a reality. On June 4, 120 of advertising’s youngest talent came to NYC from across the country and gathered in a seemingly nondescript building. We wanted our ReSolve to be the antithesis of any conference we’d ever attended: no stuffy hotel conference room, no list of gold or silver sponsors, no speakers talking at a huge room of half-asleep attendees.
We chose 632 on Hudson, a four-story building that was formerly a produce market and sausage factory. Our hope was that the history and beauty of the place would inspire our attendees.
The concept for the day was simple but lofty: 10 teams, 1 challenge to help address world hunger by thinking globally but acting locally. We heard from Lauren Bush Lauren, founder of FEED Projects (and a millennial, mind you) who provided a global hunger overview, and City Harvest’s Jen McLean who educated us on the issue of hunger in New York City.
We had roundtable discussions with ADvisors, volunteer experts in categories like sustainability, tech, social cause, and food. Chef Bill Telepan sat in a former speakeasy bar on the ground floor and told us about his passion for nutrition in schools. We listened with rapt attention as Treasurer of Ample Table for Everyone Ann Diamond educated us on food insecurity in the art deco lounge. These were not big productions given to many; these were intimate conversations with a few.
Over the course of the day, armed with the information they’d learned, the attendees did what they’ve wanted to do since they got into advertising: they used their brains to change the world. They brainstormed ways to solve the hunger epidemic that faces one in four New Yorkers every day.
The energy and passion in 632 on Hudson was palpable. The day ended with team presentations, the crowning of a winner, and (like any good ad event) a happy hour to celebrate. Perhaps the best part is that City Harvest has promised to implement the winning idea, aligning with our promise to do more than just talk.
And what was the winning idea, you ask? A key insight we gleaned from the day is that there’s a major misconception of what hunger looks like in NYC. People forget that it could be the person in the cubicle next to you, not just the homeless person on the street.
A team created #kNOwhunger, a campaign that would raise awareness on the pervasiveness of hunger and shine a spotlight on “Middle Class Poverty,” people whose salaries preclude them from receiving food stamps but cannot provide enough to make ends meet. Other ideas ranged from an EatTM machine that dispensed food stamps to a partnership with gyms to encourage members to turn calories burned into food delivered.
From the ADvisors to the attendees, people’s reactions to the ReSolve tell us that there is not only a strong desire for such events but also a deep need. Think about the impact if those who work in finance used their minds to eradicate poverty in the world, or writers joined forces to solve the growing education problem.
We are not our jobs, and we do ourselves a disservice by pigeon-holing our talents and identities into a job title, a company, or an industry
The game has changed. We are the ADvocates, an army of ambitious advertisers, the new generation of Drapers, and we are working to solve world hunger.
We’ve taken our first step. What’s yours?
Jenny Hoffman is part of the ADvocates, a group of young advertising professionals dedicated to using their ad-marketing skills to make a difference in the world.